Insects abound: they crawl through the grass, fly through the air and can seem like a mesmerizing plaything to your cat. She can eat all the houseflies she wants, but certain bugs can poison your kitty, and should be avoided like the plague, or a dirty litter box.
Fireflies dance through the night sky like a fireworks display, but did you know these bright beauties could be toxic to your cat? These insects glow because of chemical compounds called lucibufagins. These compounds are similar to the toxic secretions of poisonous bufotoads, and ingestion of fireflies is known to easily kill lizards. One milligram of bufotoxin (the size of a few sugar granules) can kill a cat. However, fortunately for you both, fireflies are quick enough to avoid most kitty paws and the majority of cats don’t hunt them as prey.
Wasps, Hornets and Bees
Serious reactions to wasp and bee stings usually occur when your kitty has an allergic reaction to the toxin. Not all cats are allergic to wasps and bees, but don’t risk it. If possible, avoid letting your kitty romp in tall grass and brush, and be sure to have any nests and hives carefully removed. Rush her to the nearest veterinary hospital if she's been stung and shows any sign of anaphylaxis, such as inflammation of the paws, swelling of the head, labored breathing, pale gums, seizures or excessive drooling. The good news is that most bees and wasps sting only if they feel considerably threatened.
Most cats can handle a fire ant bite or two. Light pain and swelling might result, but the bite should heal in a couple of days. The real danger comes when a cat encounters a swarm of fire ants. Small kittens are especially vulnerable to fire ant toxin. When fire ants bite they leave their stinger in the victim. It can continue to release poison into your cat’s body even after you’ve removed the ants. A large amount of fire ant toxin can overwhelm a small cat’s system and even lead to death. Some cats are allergic to fire ant bites, so as with wasp and bee stings, remain vigilant for any signs of anaphylactic shock. It’s best to keep your cat away from fire ant mounds, which are prevalent in warm areas such as the Southeastern U.S.
Cats love to play with crawly things, and spiders are no exception. Certain spiders, such as black widows and brown recluses, can cause neuromuscular damage with a single bite. Signs of a spider bite may take a while to manifest. At first your kitty may appear symptom-free or have localized soreness and itching. Within two or three days she may develop fever, chills, a rash, weakness, nausea or joint pain. One of the telltale signs of a brown recluse bite is an uneven lesion that refuses to heal. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you believe a spider has bitten your cat. If left untreated, poisonous spider bites can lead to deep tissue damage and even limb amputation.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.